Strong anti-GOP rhetoric suddenly shines the spotlight on non-partisan Hoboken BOE race


Strong anti-GOP rhetoric had suddenly shined the spotlight on the November 8th non-partisan Hoboken Board of Education race, which had been a pretty sleepy affair until this week.

The “Leadership that Listens” (left) and “Kids First” Hoboken Board of Education slates. Facebook photos.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

A mailer paid for by the “Leadership that Listens” team of Leslie Norwood, Antonio Graña, and Trustee Alex De La Torre, all Democrats, reached targeted blue voters yesterday.

“Across America, extremists are trying to over school boards. Now it’s happening here,” the campaign piece contends.

In short, the “Kids First” team of Pavel Sokolov, the secretary of the Hoboken Republican Committee, Donna Magen, and Cindy Wiegand – who are both unaffiliated voters – are attacked for allegedly supporting former President Donald Trump, opposing mask mandates in schools, and soliciting endorsements from right-wing groups.

Specifically, the LTL team took umbrage with KF receiving support from the New Jersey Project, a conservative group that opposes vaccine and mask mandates, an LGBTQ+ curriculum, among other things.

“At a time where extremists are attempting to infiltrate school boards across the country, we call on Pavel, Donna and Cindy to disavow this group and all of NJP’s extremist viewpoints,” they said in a statement.

“ … We have nearly come through a global pandemic, but we are not out of the woods yet. Misinformation and disinformation have serious consequences. Now let’s extrapolate that to education administration. If you refuse to believe peer-reviewed research, what other data will you set aside when making decisions for our community’s children?”

In their own statement, the KF team noted that NJ Project has endorsed over 200 BOE candidates statewide and their website comes with a disclaimer that this is done so without any coordination with campaigns.

“Paid for by New Jersey Project and not authorized by any candidate or any candidates committee,” a disclaimer at the bottom of their endorsement page says.

“We have been committed to sharing our hopes and ideas for our community throughout this process and will continue to do so, respectfully. These comments and marketing materials are untrue, hurtful, and frankly an example of what is wrong today in Hoboken politics,” the trio asserted.

“Kids First stands behind our intentions and integrity. Our platform believes that critical to our school systems future success is transparency with the community, collaboration across all the schools, and fiscal responsibility.”

With the election last than three weeks away, some of Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s allies on the council have begun endorsing the LTL team, including Councilman-at-Large Joe Quintero and 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen.

While expressing his support for LTL, Cohen also chided KF for the NJ Project endorsement, referring to them as “a radical far-right group fighting culture wars statewide.”

In an editorial earlier this month, the Hoboken Democratic Committee’s executive committee, which includes Cohen and Quintero, came out and said they wouldn’t get involved in the race, calling on the local GOP to do the same.

Although she did not endorse three candidates for the three-year terms on the school board, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, a frequent political adversary of Team Bhalla, blasted LTL’s “partisan, slanderous attack mailer.”

“If you didn’t see it, LTL’s attack mailer attempts to paint the competing Kids First candidates as book banning extremists by using dishonest and misleading statements. Basically a partisan bullying piece. If you actually met Pavel, Cindy and Donna, you would know that nothing could be further from the truth,” she wrote in an email blast.

She also said that “the bullying, dishonest and divisive partisan rhetoric and character assassination in our local, non-partisan elections has to stop.”

Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics Director Micah Rasmussen said that these types of campaign tactics are not uncommon in non-partisan school board races in the Garden State.

“School board candidates across the state are doing their best to conceal their positions and agendas, and while you could make the argument that the one organization’s support was unsolicited, it doesn’t seem like the entirety of it came out of thin air,” he told HCV.

“Voters are being forced to glean what they can from past controversies that have come before local school boards, and it looks like some of the details in this mailer comes from those.”

The Mile Square City BOE race also features two other Democrats running independently: John Madigan, a former trustee, and Patricia Waiters.

Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/hcvcp/public_html/wp-content/themes/Hudson County View/includes/wp_booster/td_block.php on line 353


  1. Not surprising that the morally corrupt BoE referendum schemers are now trying every tactic in the book to dodge being held accountable. They were nasty in January and haven’t learned or listened since then. Vote kids first 678!

  2. This story supports reasoning to move the School Board election back where is was over 10 years ago before it changed, under the guise of “saving money” – and “voter fatigue”. Which of course is utter nonsense.

    The April School Board election and May Municipal Mayoral and Council elections were moved to November as part of a deliberate plan back in 2010 – 2011, to align Hoboken’s Non-Partisan elections in April and May, with the General Election in November, which is historically the time to vote in partisan elections.

    Inexperienced politicians in control at the time sought to retain control by moving these elections. In fact, the effort was delayed a year, so that the following year would allow for the change to take effect along with Governor Christie’s re-election. Coincidently, the 2013 Mayoral Election was held that year, in November.

    For the 1st time in Hoboken, there was no runoff election – because of the same so-called reasoning of “saving money” and “voter fatigue” that was sold to the public. Moving both elections to November occurred at the same time as the runoff election for Mayor/Council was eliminated.

    Thus began the latest trend – getting elected by repeating the rhetoric and talking points (green technology, critical infrastructure, resiliency) of state issues to garner favorable press and align with those running in partisan races in November; and winning with less than half the vote – or even a third of residents who voted.

    It’s a sad day for Hoboken that we now face a School Board election that has candidates drenched in venom; hurling insults because of one’s opinions on national or state issues.

    It’s a school board election. No one should be on a high horse. We all live here. Don’t think the voters will be deceived. They know how we got here to this point of partisan bickering. Beware the endorser.

    Thankfully, the voters of Hoboken have recently restored Runoff Elections.

    Next, voters should consider moving both the School Board election and the Municipal elections BACK to April and May, respectively. This will help restore Democracy in Hoboken!

    Plus, Hoboken voters would get the added bonus of being able to once again vote on the annual School Board Budget, as it was before that election was moved to November.

    • Voter fatigue is a real thing. Off cycle BoE elections with low turnout were rife with vote buying, and only advantaged corruption. Elections are not chess pieces. Elections were moved for good reason, and Hoboken voters like it that way. Turnout for BoE elections is higher making it harder for crooks to manipulate results. Hoboken voters don’t want or like neverending election seasons. And of course, city wide elections are EXPENSIVE. Unnecessary taxpayer money squandered.

  3. Here’s the link:

    Now do a search on the candidates to see who! Hint: the answer is on the LTL mailer.

    While you are on “NJ Fresh Faced Schools” Facebook page, scroll down to learn about their advocacy which the NJEA described as “homophobic, transphobic, misinformation”. Now ask: why didn’t KF disclose this candidate’s activism for this radical extremist group? Why did it have to come on their opponents’ mailer? In any case, I am thankful to know it but it should have been disclosed by KF.

    • Did Former RECENT REPUBLICAN AND CURRENT REPUBLICANS Like Leslie’s Husband, Dr Johnson or Sharyn Angry and Melania’s Husband show you that page first?

  4. LTL, Cohen and Quintero had an opportunity to take the highroad when this outrageous mailer was dumped on Hoboken and they squandered it instead taking the low road.

      • Ravi need another unquestioning vote on the City Council so they recruited and paid for him to be that vote.
        He was OK to play that roll and the hefty second salary and benefits package didn’t hurt.

  5. LTL Care to explain?
    Why is Ms Norwood (who is married to Trump supporter and alcohol beverage board member Paul Blanos another recent ex Republican who changed his party to non declared so he can remain on the ABC Board where the cant have all Republicans, so he had to change his status in order to remain.)
    So it’s bizarre that the LTL Slate and their allies already on the BOE are good as Republican but nobody who dare challenge them.

    But back to Leslie and other LTL supporters hanging out by Connors and other schools whispering :
    “With so many candidates… You know Pat Waiters could win”

    Wow, so even worse than a Republican for LTL is the chance Pat Waiters an independant activist, who is spending zero on her campaign is their big fear?

    BTW Pat Waiters is Black…

  6. I am deeply disappointed by the behavior of Leaders That Listen. Such vitriol, divisiveness, and dishonesty has no place in Hoboken or anywhere else.

    The members of LTL are the same people who supported the ill-fated high school bond referendum. They spent 3 years and 2 million dollars secretly hatching a plan that they tried to ram through in the dead of winter in a special election. They tried to raise school taxes by 20% and destroy the homes around JFK stadium with no community input. They vilified the people who opposed them. And they rightfully lost by a landslide.

    The tragedy, though, is that our district schools are overcrowded. Only 9% of our graduates are proficient in math. They have done nothing to fix these pressing issues. They have failed. They failed because, frankly, they’re incompetent. They are incompetent leaders. When they rolled out their plan, they talked about hockey rinks and football stadiums, not math and English proficiency, not vocational arts, not classrooms. Step back for a second and think about it. That’s crazy.

    I don’t care who you vote for, but I’m implore you to not vote for LTL because they’re incompetent.